HHS Secretary at the Global Business Forum: Health Care Reform Can Boost U.S Competitiveness
January 13, 2011
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen
Health care reform is a vital step toward making U.S. businesses more competitive in a global economy, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Healthy adults are better workers and healthy children are better students,” she said Thursday (Jan. 13) in the opening keynote address of the University of Miami Global Business Forum, organized by the School of Business.
Sebelius set the stage for future discussions during the second day of the forum, headlined “The Business of Health Care: Defining the Future.”
Americans eat too much, don’t exercise enough, continue to smoke and don’t always receive quality medical care, Sebelius said. In the business world, that means about 45 million avoidable sick days a year, the equivalent of 180,000 workers calling in sick for an entire year.
“That alone puts the U.S at a severe disadvantage in global markets,” said Sebelius, who called for a new direction in health care, focusing on prevention and wellness. “Employers have spent billions trying to deal with health care,” she said. “Now, we have a historic opportunity to join together and build a healthier nation.”
Sebelius defended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 in the face of opposition from the incoming U.S. House of Representatives. “There has been a lot of talk about repealing the act or defunding healthcare,” she said. “But people across the country are starting to connect directly with the benefits of health care reform. The members of Congress need to have a conversation with their constituents and ask themselves, ‘What is the alternative?’”
At the forum, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, who served as HHS secretary in the 1990s, noted that Sebelius has won bipartisan support for key health care issues and for streamlining unwieldy budgets. “She is a good listener and negotiator who gets things done,” Shalala said.
In her welcoming remarks, School of Business Dean Barbara E. Kahn pointed to the importance of health care for families, businesses and communities. “The debate over solutions is intense, and the ramifications are immense,” she said. “Innovative thinking can help our nation better meet the challenging demands of the global economy.”
Penny Shaffer, South Florida market president for GBF key sponsor BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, introduced the session, noting that “this forum is in line with our mission to advance better health.”
The three-day Global Business Forum featured some of the world’s most prominent health care industry thought leaders. In addition to the keynote addresses, the Forum included more than 30 panel sessions organized in six tracks, including economics and health care, aging, innovation, wellness and prevention, global health issues and hospital design, technology and delivery systems of the future.
The Forum's key sponsors included BlueCross BlueShield of Florida and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.